Exposing the DACA Lies

Every time there is a debate about immigration reform there are numerous figures thrown out as fact. Arguments are made based on false facts and narratives to push forth the agenda that immigrants are bad, or even dangerous for the country. The debate about the Dreamer is no different. “They took jobs away from Americans” and “they abuse our benefits” are the typical arguments made to demonize the Dreamers and other immigrants. But, they are based on lies.

First it is important to understand what the Deferred Action for Children Arrivals, or DACA really is. DACA did not offer a pathway towards citizenship. DACA did not provide a long-term legal status to the Dreamers. What DACA did was offer a temporary solution to those brought to the country as children and who did not have legal status to be in the country. All DACA did was to provide the Dreamers with the ability to work, go to school and to pay taxes. The Dreamers were given two-year windows to live without the fear of deportation. DACA did not offer any other benefits or privileges beyond the right to work and to live temporarily in the country. Temporary is the key to DACA.

Now let’s look at the misleading facts and myths being put out about the Dreamers.

To parse through the lies, I looked at the information about the DACA recipients published by Homeland Security, various U.S. governmental agencies, a report on the economics of DACA produced by the Immigration Resources Center and the results of a survey of 3,063 DACA recipients compiled by University of California, San Diego professor Tom K. Wong. (see footnotes for details)

Immigrants Are Not Wanted

The biggest lie told about the immigration question is that the citizens of the United States do not want immigrants in their myths. When pressed, anti-immigrant proponents argue the “legal” versus “illegal” technicality. Either way, the notion that is perpetuated is that immigrants are not welcomed in the country.

An April 2017 polls demonstrates this to be a falsehood. According to the poll of registered U.S. voters [1], only 14% of the registered voters polled wanted the Dreamers deported. Fifty-six percent of those polled want to give the Dreamers a pathway to citizenship. The poll of registered voters demonstrates that voters overwhelming support the Dreamers remaining the country.

Not only that, but when the voters were asked about immigrants in general, the voters that were polled overwhelmingly (46% to become citizens and 23% to be allowed to remain) wants Congress to allow undocumented immigrants to remain in the country. Only 22% wants the immigrants deported.

Interestingly, but in line with the fact that it was the Republicans who enacted the last meaningful immigration reform, 46% of the voters polled trust the Republicans to handle immigration issues. In 1985, Ronald Regan led an effort to pass substantial immigration reform. The law was adopted by 69 votes in the Senate. Forty-One Republicans voted for the legislation, compared to 28 Democrats. Of the 30 votes at the Senate opposed to the reform, 19, were Democrats. Only 11 Republicans voted against S-1200. In the House, 62 Republicans, along with 168 Democrats voted in favor of the legislation. One hundred and five Republican House members voted against the legislation. The ‘nay’ voters were joined by 61 Democrats. Congress at the time was controlled by the Republicans in the Senate and the Democrats controlled the House.

Today, the Republicans control both houses of Congress.

This poll, along with others, demonstrates that voters not only want the undocumented immigrants to remain in the country but they also want Congress to offer legislation allowing pathways to become legal.

To get a better understanding of the mindset of those polled, it is beneficial to look at their responses when asked if Congress should continue its efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act. Forty-nine percent want Congress to continue working on repealing ObamaCare. Clearly, this subset of voters leans towards Conservative issues.

Regardless of what the poll demonstrates, there are those that will argue that the election of Donald Trump invalidates all polls. Looking at the results of how each of those polled answered the question about they view their government today, gives us an opportunity to understand their mindset. When asked whether they held a favorable or unfavorable view of certain politicians it becomes evident that those polled favor Donald Trump’s national agenda.

  • When asked about Mitch McConnel, only 28% of the polled voters looked favorably at him.
  • When asked about Paul Ryan, only 39% of the polled voters looked favorably at him.
  • When asked about Nancy Pelosi, only 29% of the polled voters looked favorably at her.
  • When asked about Charles Schumer, only 32% of the polled voters looked favorably at him.
  • Mike Pence, on the other hand, was looked upon favorably by 49% of those polled.
  • But when asked about Donald Trump, 50% of those who participated in this poll looked favorably at Donald Trump.

Remember that this poll was conducted on April 2017. Clearly the individuals polled in this survey lean towards the politics of Donald Trump. Even them they support a pathway for the Dreamers as well as for other undocumented immigrants.

Criminality

It is commonly assumed that the DACA recipients were unvetted when processed by the U.S. government. That is the narrative that is pushed to attempt to tie in the border security and the security of the nation issues with immigration reform. However, Homeland Security has stated that any applicant for DACA relief that had “a felony offense, a significant misdemeanor offense, or three or more other misdemeanor offenses” would be denied DACA status. In other word, criminals need not apply.

The Dreamers were required to pass rigorous background checks upon their initial application and every two-years when they renew their status. Any crime attributed to them would disqualify their renewal.

Economic Impact

A December 2016 report by the Immigrant Legal Resource Center demonstrated that there is an economic cost to the country if the Dreamers were to leave the workforce. According to the report, 87% of the DACA recipients that registered with the U.S. government by June 2016, were employed. As legal employees, the 645,145 Dreamers paid into Social Security and were subject to local, state and federal income taxes. In other words, over half-a-million Dreamers were contributing the U.S. tax base. [2]

According to the same report, if the Dreamers were kicked out of the workforce, over $24.6 billion in Social Security and Medicare contributions would be lost. [2]

The average hourly wage for the Dreamers is about $13.96 per hour. Working an average of 1,790 hours over the year, Dreamers are making $24,988.40 annually. [2]

The national survey of DACA recipients suggests that 5.5% of them started a business as result of their temporary authority to be in the United States. Ninety-two percent carry car insurance and 54.1% bought their first car. [2]

Obviously the Dreamers do not fit the stereotype normally associated to immigrants in the country.

Education

The Wong survey demonstrates that the Dreamers are highly educated. According to the survey, 21.5% hold at least a bachelor’s degree and 23.3% are high school graduates. Over 46%, are currently in school with 55.4% pursuing a bachelor’s degree. [2]

Jobs

Over 20% of the DACA recipients are employed in the educational and health services sectors of the economy according to the Wong DACA survey. [2] Only 3% are in the construction industry and less than 1% works in agriculture. [2]

The Wong DACA survey suggests that the Dreamers were already in the workforce prior to attaining temporary work permits. Over 50% were employed prior to receiving DACA protection. [2] This suggests than rather than displace U.S. workers, the DACA recipients either attained better employment after DACA or continued to work where they were, albeit now with permission. In other words, at least 50% of the DACA recipients did not display U.S. workers as a result of DACA. However, their paychecks increased because of DACA.

Medicare/Medicaid

There have been arguments made by those opposed to Dreamers attaining a permanent pathway towards legalization that their presence, like other immigrants, stresses Medicare and Medicaid. It has also been suggested that Dreamers takeaway the opportunity for U.S. citizens to benefit from education opportunities using federal financial assistance.

In terms for access to federal financial aid, DACA recipients were federally prohibited from accessing federal aid. Except for a small number of states, state-level financial aid for Dreamers was unavailable to them. The Dreamers did not take away educational benefits from their U.S.-born counterparts.

Medicare and Medicaid are funded through payroll taxes. Employees and employers contribute the system. To take benefits out of each system, the beneficiary must attain a certain age or suffer a significant life event. Because of the average age of the Dreamers, it is highly unlikely they drew benefits from either program. However, their workforce participation benefited the system by their contributions.

Pathway Towards Citizenship

One of the loudest arguments about immigration is that people should do it the “right way.” Many do not understand that the “right way” means waiting over 12 years for a spot in line, the whole time unable to make life-changing decisions such as getting married or having children. Many times, chain-migration is assumed to allow immigrants an immediate path towards a “green card.” This is the notion argued by those pursuing a “merit-based” immigration policy. However, the Wong survey seems to demonstrate that even with a parent or sibling that is over 18 years of age and is a U.S. citizen, the Dreamers were still unable to attain a pathway towards legalization. Over 40% have an immediate family member who is over 18 years old, but none-the-less were forced to resort to DACA as temporary relief. [2]

Population

The Wong DACA survey suggests that 97% of the Dreamers are bilingual. [2]

Footnotes:

  1. Morning Consult National Tracking Poll #170409, April 20-204, 2017 (2,032 registered voters polled on April 20-24, 2017 with each response weighed by age, race/ethnicity, gender, educational attainment and religion. The results have a margin of error of plus or minus 2%)
  2. Magaña-Salgado, Jose; “Money on the Table: The Economic Cost of Ending DACA”; Immigrant Legal Resource Center, December 2016
  3. Dreamer National Survey 09/08/2016 to 09/26/2016 conducted by Tom K. Wong
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